Sometimes, less is more…


Here’s a wide version of the landscape I was enjoying on Sunday morning at 5:53 a.m. Lots going on in the scene, eh? While I love the wide point of view I can get using my 17-40mm lens and the full-frame Canon 5D Mark II, often you have to make tough decisions about what to include in the frame and what to exclude. And sometimes… in the name of creating a pleasing composition… less is more.

Here there is the powerful surf below the ledge, a gentle color gradient on the horizon, some funky high clouds in the top right of the frame, an amazing coastline running along the left hand side of the frame, and a pesky pine tee standing tall over toward the top left corner. Add the precarious vantage point I was perched on overlooking a potentially pretty steep fall, and you can see that some compositional choices needed to be made.

Sticking with the 17-40mm zoom lens (looking back I wish I had used a longer telephoto to zoom in on the waves as they rolled in against the shoreline rocks), I experimented with a variety of compositions. Landscape versus portrait orientation, 17mm versus 40mm and everything in between. Tipping the camera up or down to include more sky or more foreground… all of these choices can lead to quite different photographs… and I have to admit, I really do enjoy the creative process of making sense of these choices and how they impact the scene.

Here’s a vertical-oriented composition from around the same area. This one was made about half an hour (6:20 a.m.) after the previous photograph, and as you can see, simply turning the camera on its side can have a dramatic impact on the composition. For some strange reason I tend to initially get drawn to vertical compositions, but I always try to remember to shoot something I like in landscape orientation too – that way I can take look at all options when I get back home.

As much as I like the two compositions above, neither of them would make the cut if I were asked to pare the collection from this particular morning down. I think I am happiest with the composition shown below where I zoomed in to 39mm and tried to focus on just a couple of the many elements on display. Although I admittedly enjoy the wide angle effect (and might even be guilty of over-using it), in this photograph I think the composition benefits from the tighter focal length. So, yet another example of that well-worn phrase… sometimes, less is more.


16 thoughts on “Sometimes, less is more…

  1. Oh wow, all the elements that I love most – water, rocks, sunrise – and all together in one composition! Personally I like the wide version at the top best, but they’re all stunning. Oddly enough I very frequently find myself choosing to paint landscapes in portrait format, and I could never work out why either – I had a theory that it had something to do with being shortsighted and wearing glasses, and thereby seeing the world by looking straight ahead and up and down rather than in cinemascope….

    • David Patterson

      Oh boy… now you’ve got me thinking about why I like portrait-oriented photographs more. Thanks for sharing!

    • David Patterson

      I’m always ready for some pop tarts! We sure do have a lot of pine trees, don’t we? I couldn’t decide whether to include all of the tree or none of it!

    • David Patterson

      Thanks. I use Photoshop CS5 to “develop” my photographs, though there are many software options out there for doing similar edits. After hearing rave reviews about Lightroom 3, I recently bought a copy but haven’t really started using it yet. Something about teaching old dogs new tricks…

        • David Patterson

          Thanks… without getting into a debate about how much post-processing “should” be applied to a photograph, I appreciate that we are all free to interpret scenes as we please… to each their own I say.

  2. Bob

    Your beautiful photos are always the next best thing to being there. If you leave after 8 or 9am, I’d like to go with you some time.

    • David Patterson

      Bob… thanks. The early start is needed for the nicer light… even by 8am it’s not quite the same. What’s the problem though? You’re up early anyway 🙂

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